- How much ease do you want in the sweater you are making?
- How do you work with the pattern to get it?
- Find the size you would normally knit. (If you don't know, measure yourself around the widest part of your bust. In standard sizes, S = 32–34; M = 36–38; L = 40–42; 1X = 44–46; 2X = 48–50. For other sizes, extrapolate from this: for hips, add 2" to every number.) Let's assume you have a 41" bust, which makes you a L.
- Find the finished measurement for that size. Let's assume it's 45". Now hold a tape measure at your bust at 45" and see how it feels. If you love it, then knit that size: you are done! But if you don't love how it will fit, then do the following steps.
- Go to another garment of the same style (and it doesn't have to be a sweater)--one whose fit you like--and measure its circumference, then try it on to remind yourself how it fits on your body. (Please see the bullets below where I discuss this step further.) Once you are sure of the bust measurement you want, record it.
- Let's assume the circumference you like is a little smaller than the pattern's. What can you do? Because there is usually 4" difference between sizes, this would mean the L is 45" and the M is 41". You have a 41" bust, so you would get 0 ease if you knit the M. But if knit a L front and a M back, you'd get a finished circumference of 43", which might be exactly what you want! So do it!
- On the other hand, let's assume the circumference you like is a little larger than the pattern's. You could get more ease if you knit a 1X front and a L back. (You might notice that I prefer to put the larger size in the front--because this is how we are shaped.) So do that!
- I'm saying bust, but (as you read yesterday) if the garment is longer we work with the hip measurement.
- By style, I'm referring to what you might think of as armhole style: set-in sleeve, raglan, drop shoulder. How something is shaped to fit the armhole has a huge bearing on the amount of ease it needs (as you saw in yesterday's post).
- Some folks say they don't have a garment whose fit they like. Okay. Try on something you don't like, preferably something too big around the bust! Pinch it to see how much smaller should it be.
- If the thing you are measuring is a light blouse or fine T-shirt, please appreciate that your knit garment will be a heavier fabric and might need 1" more ease.
But what if you've done the work of steps 1–5 and now know you need to blend sizes. Do not fear! This blending of sizes is something I find myself doing a lot--even when I knit from my own patterns. Why? Because some of my patterns are 10 years old, and 10 years ago styles were looser. Now that I want a closer-to-the-body fit, I find myself knitting M fronts and S backs a lot.
Is it as simple as it sounds? Well . . . no . . . not quite (and when is anything ever as simple as it sounds?!?).
For one thing, working a different size for the front and back doesn't work for a drop shoulder (or most kinds of modular knitting). But the drop shoulder is a style that is better knit with a lot of ease, so chances are you could just knit your size anyway!(And the same could be said for most modular knitting.)
If you are making a set-in sleeve or raglan--the styles we are more fond of--the blending of sizes does work. You might have to fiddle numbers (for the shoulder width of the set-in sleeve, for the armhole decreases for the raglan, for the underarm bind-off for both), but this should not be a stretch.
- For the set-in sleeve, decrease to the shoulder width that fits your shoulders.
- For the raglan, you might have to slow down your armhole decreases on the smaller piece--so your armhole is not too short on that side. To slow down decreases, just skip a few decrease rows. (I don't love the raglan, because it is not flattering on many of us and is difficult to make fit. So maybe the first time you do this should be with a set-in sleeve?)
- For either the set-in sleeve or raglan, there will be an armhole bind-off: bind off the number of stitches for the size sleeve you are making. (For example, if the armhole bind-off is 5 stitches for the M and 7 stitches for the L, then bind off 5 stitches for both.)
- For the set-in sleeve or raglan, you will have to decide which size sleeve you want (L or M?). Make the armhole depth and sleeve for that size, binding off the number of stitches from the previous bullet at each underarm.
There's probably nothing more important to your knitting than having it fit properly: doing this work will ensure that.
This kind of work is very good for your brain: you will be a healthier version of yourself for doing it.
Knitting is extraordinarily flexible! If you goof up a little, chances are the knitting will forgive you.
Fear and knitting are two words that should never occur in the same sentence!